[Robert Underwood] Johnson
Martinez March 4. 1890.
Dear Mr Johnson
I went to the city yesterday to seek the illustrations you want. Keith had three paintings of falls in Tuolumne Canon. I told him they were too large. He will make copies of these in India ink, & a copy a fine painting of the Tuolumne Meadows & Mts Dana & Gibbs, also India ink sketches of two or three other rocks & falls in the big Canon. He promises to have them ready this week when I will forward. Robinson I could not find - Hill is in Portland, Or. His address is 360 12 St. His son told me that he did not think his father had or could furnish photographs of the paining from Inspriation Pt, though he would have no objection to having it engraved for the Century
if copy could be found. He referred me to Watkins, who he thought had photographed the painting years ago, but Watkins had no copy left, & could not furnish one, therefore I got one of his photographs from the same point of view (the old Inspiration Point). Neither could I find a photo of the rustic landscapes to the eastward from Glacier Point, though it has been photographed, perhaps by Muybridge. You may find it in New York. Instead of this I send you a view from Eagle Point, the highest of the Three Brothers, which I think is the best topographical photograph of the valley & High Sierra above it that has been made. I also send herewith the map of the Yosemite region made by the Geological Survey. The best there is though faulty in many places especially about the Big Tuol Canon -
I had already written a general description of the valley ere your letter reached me, & I will hardly be able to make a new beginning. I think however that you will find joints & cleavage planes running through the mass of the article making it separable into tolerably well-defined sections. And what you want you may print in any order you choose & what you do not want you can return. The whole will I fear considerably exceed the bounds of a single article, while I can't make a sketchy topographical view telling. Anyhow I cant learn to skip well from point to point like a [illegible] in a cherry orchard picking here & there at the best clusters. I'll do the best I can however. Keeping the objects you mention in view, while I browse with blunt
muzzle on fruit wood root or leaves. Kates letter to Stanford is a stunner. I suppose you saw the governors long telegram to Stanford in reply. None of the papers here seem willing to take up the subject in earnest. Here is a feeble editorial from the Bulletin. The extract from the N.Y. Post you mention has not yet come to hand. If I like it I will try to get it republished in the Bulletin, but I dont know how Mr. Fitch may look at the matter. I have not yet had a talk with him. The love of Nature among Californians is desperately moderate consuming enthusiasm almost wholly unknown. Long ago I gave up the floor of Yosemite as a garden, & looked only to the rough taluses & inaccessible or hidden benches & recesses of the walls. all the flowers are wallflowers now, not only in Yosemite but to a great extent
throughout the length & breadth of the Sierra. still the Sierra flora is not yet beyond redemption & much may be done by the movement you are making. As to the management it should I think be taken wholly out of the Governors hands the office changes too often & must always be more or less mixed with politics in its bearing upon appointments for the valley. A commission consisting of the President of the university, the president of the state board of agriculture & the president of the Mechanics Institute would I think be a vast improvement on the present commission. Perhaps one of the Commissioners should be an army officer. Such change would not be likely as far as I can see to provke any formidable opposition on the part of Californians in general. Taking back the valley on the part of the government
would probably be a troublesome job. I was talking with Miss Shinn on the subject. She said that in her opinion a bill recalling the grant on account of mismanagement or any other account could never be got through Congress, because California being about evenly divided between Republicans & Democrats (what names to write after considering the lilies) both parties in Congress would be affraid to offend her. Everybody I have spoken to on the subject sees the necessity of a change however in the management, & would favor such commission as I have suggested. For my part I should rather see the valley in the hands of the general government, but how glorious a storm of growls & howls would rend our sunny skies bursting forth from every paper in the state at the outrage of the Century Editor snatching with unholy
hands etc the diadem from California's brow etc. Then where oh where would be the supineness of which you speak. These Californians now sleeping in apathy caring only for what "pays" would then blaze up as did the devil when touched by Ithuriel's spear. A man may not apreciate his wife, but let her daddie try to take her back! I dont know whether the legislature is in session or not, I rather think not as I have not noticed any Sacramento drift in the newspapers lately. As to the extension of the grant, the more we can get into it the better. It should at least comprehend all the basins of the streams that pour into the Valley. No great opposition would be encountered in gaining this much, as few interests are involved of antagonistic character. On the
upper Merced waters there are no mines or settlements of any sort though some few land claims have been established. These would be easily extinguished by purchase. All the basins drained in Yosemite are really a part of the valley as their streams are a part of the Merced. Cut off from its branches Yosemite is only a stump. However gnarly & picturesque no tree that is beheaded looks well. But like ants creeping in the furrows of the bark few of all the visitors to the valley see more than the stump, & but little of that. To preserve the valley & leave all its related rocks waters forests to fire & sheep & lumberman is like keeping the grand hall of entrance of a palace for royalty, while all the other apartments from cellar to dome is given up to the common or uncommon uses of industry butcher shops, vegetable stalls, liquor saloons,
lumber yards etc. But even the one main hall has a hog pen in the middle of the floor, and the whole concern seems hopeless as far as destruction & desecration can go. Some of that stink I'm afraid has got into the pores of the rocks even. Perhaps it was the oncoming shadow of this destruction that cause the great flood & the earthquake. 'Nature sighing through all her works giving sign of woe that all was lost' Still something may be done after all. The boundary line I have indicated on the map in dotted line as proposed above. A yet greater extension I have marked on the same map extending north & south between Lat. 38[degree symbol] & 37[degree symbol] 30' & from the axis of the range westward about 36 or 40 miles. This would include three groves of Big Trees, the Tuolumne Canon, Tuolumne
meadows & Hetch Hetchy Valley. So large an extension would of course meet more opposition. Its boundary lines would not be nearly so natural, while to the westward many claims would be encountered, a few also about Mts. Dana & Warren where mines have been opened. Come on out here & take another look at the Canon. The earthquake taluses are all smooth now & the chaparral is buried while the river still tosses its crystal arches aloft & the ouzel sings we would be sure to see some fine avalanches, come on. I'll go if you will leaving ranch, reservations, Congress bills Century articles and all other terrestrial cares & particles. In the meantime I am cordially yours
1890 Mar 4
Original letter dimensions unknown.
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to [Robert Underwood] Johnson, 1890 Mar 4." (1890). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 1887.
Reel 06, Image 0381
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